Wednesday, August 27, 2008


First of all, wow. The post below really rocked my socks off.

Secondly, Now that we have all returned to St. Louis from the lulls of summersummer time, we promise to keep the Upcycle Blog alive and up to date, in spite of our other pursuits. Hopefully.

For now, Tomi, DJ, and I are working on our Dependent Study/ Welcome to the Hug Life blog. Details will follow sometime soon.

Melissa, Hitomi, and I are continuing the Metro adventures and hopefully starting a blog.

Will is adventuring in the land of vermicomposting.

Daniela is tryingtrying to finish her bike competition.

and Manderz Panderz/Samantha are readying for a european excursion of pubtrans proportions!

So, please stay tuned while we all adjust to these new chapters of our lives.

Upcycle, please.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Main Street America

Last week, my mom and I drove the 600 miles from Denver to Kansas City along the straight stretch of lonely highway known as I-70. The bulk of the trip is the 440 miles across Kansas, and I'm pretty sure the person who originally coined the term "middle of nowhere" had this scenery in mind.

I have to admit, the ride was a little bit discouraging. I was surprised to see that Kansas (my home state, I might add) feels the need to advertise itself constantly to convince people that it doesn't suck as much as they might think. I-70 advertises this little stretch as "Main Street America," a concept that clearly no longer applies here, no matter what Bob Dole may think. The main streets of these towns have long since closed up shop, defeated by the infestations of fast food and truck stops clustered around the exits from the interstate, usually a mile or two away from the old town.

I even tried to find the towns under all that crap! When we stopped for lunch in Goodland, my liberal conscience would not let me give up and eat at a Wendy's and my poor mother, used to putting up with my weird dietary whims, was forced to join me on my quest for a locally-owned restaurant. We finally found Main Street after winding our way around the giant grain elevators, and shells of closed-down businesses, there was almost nothing. I had to go back to the gross exit/fastfood/chain mess with my tail between my legs and my faith in America sufficiently depleted.

(You might be interested to know that Goodland's website says it's a GREAT place to hunt prairie dogs. What?? Since when do people hunt prairie dogs? And how hard can that be?)

So after a whole day of semis, corn fields, truckstops, and billboards adverting tourist traps and the towns we were driving through (soooo desperate), I was sufficiently depressed. But then, I saw something that made me really happy. Like really, wonderfully excited about the world. A wind farm!

Off in the distance I saw these tall, white structures sticking out of the plains--which are quite hilly right there, thank you very much--and as we got closer you could start to make out the blades slowly turning in the wind. And there were hundreds of them! They stretched out for miles along I-70. It was beautiful. It looked like the future.

I felt really really proud of Kansas just then. I felt like someone had finally understood the Kansas's potential--that state is damn windy--to supply this country with clean energy. Move over West Virginia, coal time is over.

Ok, so maybe the corporate, fossil fuel-loving, chain culture won the last battle at the expense of the old model of Kansas small towns. But the next round is going to be a different story. Wind energy is going to do big things for middle America. Big things. (Like turbines. Them things are huge.)

P.S. I didn't take any of those pictures; they're from the internets. I really need to fix my camera.
P.P.S. That was really long. Sorry pants.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Here's another nostalgic post about my summer thats very much related to the Metro Pass post prior to this one. It's also my first post I've written since I've arrived back in St. Louis.

Anyway, here are some pictures:

Van Nuys and Nordhoff. This is where I got picked up by the 761/233 bus that took me to work/the outside world. Theres a lamp post towards the center of the picture that casts a really nice shadow between 6:45 and 7:25 in the morning(the picture is taken looking directly south). I like to stand in the shadow so the sun doesnt bug me...
Sepulveda/Getty Ctr Dr. This, obviously, is where I get dropped off for worksters by my bus driver friends. It's also where I get the bus when I head down to WeWo for fun adventures. Notice the giant Bernizzle poster. bamf. ©Samantha Turpel

Westwood/Lindbrook. Now THIS is where the magic happens. I waited here many a late night for that Late PM early AM 233 route from Westwood to Lake View Terrace. This is where I helped a bunch of people navigate the PubTrans system we have in LA/ talked to people on the phone.

So the point of these pictures goes back to that prior post; I'm trying to grapple with the significance that certain moments in the urban fabric have for me, personally. Here, these "moments" consist of street corners, intersections, and physical bus stops. And the only way I've come to appreciate these places has been through the use of PubTrans. I never appreciated them or knew of their existance when I drove, they didn't even exist to me. Now, I have memories of conversations and thoughts and sentiments that took place here, memories that have helped establish ties between myself and the communities these bus stops sit in. And somehow these memories make for a richer and more fulfilling experience and life, overall. Essentially, they make me happy.

So that brings me to the following thought: if these sorts of experiences have the ability to make me happy, how can I, as an architect, etc, create similar sorts of experiences for people when I design? And moreover, why have we, as a society, collectively chosen to turn so harshly away from this sort of design. It's these moments of gestured and mediated randomness that often produce the best sorts of social interactions and personal moments of self awareness, I think. How can we make it so that there are more places like these three bus stops?

Upcycle, please.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


So these are images from the Metro Passes I've used this summer to get around Los Angeles. Also, this is the last blog post I will be writing from my desk in the Museum Education Department at the Getty Museum. Oy.

It's a bit nostalgic, I suppose, this post.

Essentially, I want to write about how special these two pieces of laminated, shiny paper are to me. For one, they granted me access to the world within a world that is the greater Los Angeles area. I used them to get to work, mostly, but also to have a lot of fun. And that's why they're special, sentimental objects that I will probably keep for a long time.

If nothing else, this was the summer of the Metro and my love affair with it. Whether it was late night bus rides back from Westwood or Little Tokyo, it was early morning stand-a-thons down Van Nuys and Sepulveda. Because of the bus, i talked to many random strangers, and discovered the wonders of the Taco Truck. Somehow, when I have these cards, I feel unstoppable, geographically. i dont have to worry about cost of gas or driving ability; all I need is time. Time to wait, ride, wait, and probably walk to wherever I'm going. But when i ride the bus, I don't really go, I get taken, swept away, even. If not down the street or across The Valley, then to some far away land populated by strangers and cars. But that's why I love riding the bus as much as I do and why these cards actually mean something to me. You know? My life has been framed and defined, like yours and everyone elses, by my mode of transportation. I can't do anything if I can't get there, and these cards let me get where I want to go... or take me somewhere I was too ignorant to consider worthwhile before. And for that, i appreciate them.

There are bus stops on street corners that I've spent hours at, collectively. And some that I've seen and touched only out of despiration and confusion. But these places are all valuable and special, both because of their relationship to the urban fabric that created them as well as the sentimental value they now hold. So, if I've learned nothing else this summer, it's that not having a car was probably the best decision I have ever made and one that I will not reconsider or live down anytime soon.

Thank you, cards.

Thank you, Metro.

Upcycle, please.

We Got Heads on Sticks

Wall-E makes noise that reminds me of "Kid A." That's probably why that movie made me cry so much; those noises on top of a post-long-term-apocalyptic Earth destroyed by big time consumerism and apathy. (Please disregard the fact that a lot of robots tend to make Kid A noises) Anywho, wouldn't it be awesome if Thom Yorke WAS Wall-E???
Maybe he is.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Lately, I've been going on this tote kick. Like, the canvas ones?

Call them Murses, Man Bags, or just totes, the point is, they're super bad. Here are some pictures of my favorite one. I got it at the Burbank Farmers Market a few weeks ago from the woman who gives away children's books. It holds a lot of stuff really well, but I accidentally overstuffed it. So the straps broke. Samantha Turpel fixed it. And then I broke it again.
Picture credits to her.
Do Something For The Kids.



So, use your totes, yeah?

Upcycle, please.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yo Upcyclers!

Why hello, hello. My name is Melissa, and from here on out I will be adding my own musings on all things wonderful and sustainable to this here blog. I will share with you my passion for public transportation (especially the Metrolink, which I love unconditionally even during these hard times. Yikes! Bad bad news for public trans...), farmers' markets, the city of St. Louis, neighborhoods, urbanism, fruit trees, the Olympics, wind energy, tofu, and public radio. Anyway, hello. Pleased to meet ya.

Right, so now that that's out of the way, I got two things for show and tell.

#1: my good friend Miss Metrolink showed me this video. Hurrah! Down with traffic! Support public transit. These guys are just too clever.

#2: Last week I went to a Jamaican restaurant on Olive, and in the bathroom I saw maybe the cutest/saddest thing I've ever seen. (Well, that might be pushing it.) Right above the toilet they had posted a drawing by a first grader of an earth with the following caption (approximately, for alas, I had forgotten my sketchie):

I wish all the soljers cude stop fiding and be home with their familaiys.
I wish the stars cude be free.
I wish people would stop jujing by skin color.

I wish too, little kid, I wish too.

That's all for now. Over and out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008


I dont know how much I believe this.

Upcycle, please.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


I read today that Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House is beginning to soften her stance against offshore oil drilling, especially in California. Not only that, but apparently the other Democrats are saying similar things, including Barack. What I don't understand is why this is happening. Well, I guess maybe I do. People are paying a lot for gas and want cheaper fuel. In order to get that, they need to have a larger supply of fuel so prices will go down. Blahblahblah. Can I just say how incredibly tired I am of the narrow-minded, typical American approach this country continues to take towards every imaginable issue? Really.

The problem is not that there isnt enough gas, it's that there are too many cars. Too many cars! Too many people who drive and too many cities with awful public transportation systems. But because it's a million times easier to complain about there not being enough gas than it is to consider how we could build an adequate way of moving people about our cities, we force our politicians into taking these ridiculous stances they know to be false and misleading. When are the politicians going to show some backbone? Our problem in America is that the answer to all these issues we confront is always "more." We send in more troops, drill more holes, build more buildings, etc etc etc. No one is talking about how the real answer to the gas price issue isnt more oil, but less driving. No driving. Why? where are these voices? Why aren't they heard?

And the weird thing is that people are so desperate to fuel their oil addiction that they're willing to do absurd things like drill more holes. And politicians are so desperate to get elected that they bend to this political pressure and compromise themselves. I personally don't think I can continue to support politicians who are afraid to tell the public that theyre wrong. Sometimes, we need people to tell us not only the truth, but what's right. That means having the courage and ability to tell us when we're wrong. And right now, no one is saying we're wrong. Why not?

I dont think I can continue to support a country that so ignorantly and idiotically aims to perpetuate a lifestyle and culture that is fundementally based upon waste and inequality. It's just too much.

I know the answers are obvious to many of us, but I'm wondering why so many people still genuinely believe that we can somehow drill or hybrid our way out of the automobile age. It's just not going to happen. Instead of attempting to slap 21st century technological innovations onto 19th and 20th century lifestyles and patterns of consumption, we should be attempting to define something new and sustainable. Unless we entirely reevaulate and rethink the way we live our lives and how we choose to consume, we cannot be saved. We shouldn't be searching for quick fixes or blanket solutions. But then again, we are led by people who are incredibly out of touch with today and dillusional about tomorrow. Maybe, the Baby Boomers are just avoiding the issue in the hopes that their children and grandchildren will be able to deal with it. Because that strategy always works.

Upcycle, please.

Folsom Sake Brewery Blues

I bought this baby at a Chinese grocery on Olive yesterday.
My alcoholic beverage smarts is pretty sparse, and I was trying to figure out what sake to buy (I called my mother for advice, and she did not pick up.) by looking at the labels. In store, I realized that this sake was brewed in Folsom, California. Funny thing happened, I almost put it back on the shelf because it was weird for me to buy Japanese alcohol brewed in California.
A lot of this thought process stems from the idea of authenticity of food items that are prevalent in many cultures; certain kinds of snacks come from one area of the country (or the world), and some alcoholic beverages are only made in that town, etc. Most of that relies on the climate or geography to grow the raw materials for the goods, and also cultural history of how these foods and food systems developed in that region.
I decided to buy the sake, because California makes a whole bunch of rice and has a good climate, and California probably has a whole bunch of Japanese sake-brewers (I really don't know how many you need to start a brewery), and that's why they can make this sake there. I went to their website:
"Why was Folsom selected? Just as Fushimi was "discovered" centuries ago, Folsom was found to offer just the right conditions: high quality water and an abundance of rice- the perfect setting for a skilled brewmaster backed by over three and a half centuries of experience."
The authenticity of food clashes with the idea of eating local, because I think a lot of people would want to have all sorts of fun eats but want to cut back on importing food from far far away. In this case, there is no importing, and the bottle travels half the distance that it would've if imported. It's kind of related to Missouri wine-making, where people are trying new things to grow on familiar land. The authenticity of the sake is still questionable for me, but it is a California sake fo sho.

Does anyone want to talk about Folsom Prison?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Here are two pictures I snapped on two different days this week. On day, I got a ride from the MTA. The other, I got a ride from Lisetti Spaghetti.

They're incredibly different.
yet remarkably similar.
People on the Bus.

People on the Freeway (notice the red bus on the right!)

Upcycle, please


I took a walk the other day and snapped some pictures of some of the stuff that's being built around where I live. It's interesting and maybe a bit compelling.

The first two pictures are from this group of single-family/detatched houses being built kind of near my house. Obviously, SFD houses are super wack, but this lot used to be some sort of reallly crappy crack house-looking area. So maybe its better? The houses are smaller than the real suburban stuff they're building in the far away suburbs. So somehow, this is sort of a medium ground between Palmdale and Van Nuys? But in the end, it's pretty blah.

Woodman Village.

Front Alley.

This second site is another housing area a few blocks up and over from the previous one. These houses are obviously much larger (and expensive) and obviously, wasteful. Bad News Bears. You know? Theres pretty much nothing great that can be said about it. They're being built on an infill lot that used to just be empty and filled with tall dried up weeds. Actually, the properties that surround this site are still tall dried up weeds and theyre sort of beautiful sans invasive species. Before they were stuccoed over, the walls were covered in graff. Welcome to the neighborhood.



The last two projects are right next to each other on Van Nuys Boulevard, right before Woodman Ave. Van Nuys is sort of like the heart of The Valley. Second to Ventura Boulevard, it's our biggest and most densely populated street. It's the street that carries the best bus service and has lots of mom and pop shops. Anyway, this seems to either be poorly designed on in the early staged of construction because of how far back the units you can see are from the street. The second picture illustrates this. I'm standing on the sidewalk, looking down into the lot. I think there are gonna be more units built facing the street. Anyway, this is good in terms of density but probably not designed super well or really, that thoughtfully. But I think it represents a step in the right direction. The second project is directly south of this one and was recently finished. It's kind of ugly and hospital-looking

This picture doesnt have a title. But under the yellow metal thing on the right, there was a guy washing his car (the yellow thing is a car wash place) who was blasting spanish music, dancing, and texting at the same time. It was great/made me jealous of his skillz.

Off the Street.


Upcycle, please!


We've been depriving you lately. Please forgive. Here are some pictures of the Upcycle Wormbin. It's glorious/the wormies are awesome.

Topless So Cute.Dramarama.

So yeah, that's the worm bin. The worms are the little pink things in the close ups. The brown stuff is their poop. Everything else is shredded copies of LA Weekly and Hoy. Pretty much, me in a nutshell/wooden box. Sometime in the future, I'll eventually post the worm bin guide I've working on.

Upcycle, please.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Gabe: "I like my coffee how i like my women:black and ground up."
Me:" ground up?"
Gabe: "yes. Also, roasted and free trade."

I think by that, Gabe means that he looks forward to a day where people of all cultures can be embraced freely throughout the world and appreciated for their innate human potential for creativity and kindness. Of course, that's only possible if this human potential is not only aligned with those of the natural environment, but beneficial to the whole world, as well. That's an idea I can really get behind.

There's something about that unbridled human potential gabe desires that really speaks to me. You know?

Upcycle, please.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Forgive the fact that this blog has digressed into my personal infatuations, but hey.


Steve says there's some mass biking protest thing going down in Santa Monica via the Crimanimals.

Crimanimalz - Freeway Ride III from Paul Bringetto on Vimeo.

If I got/take pics I'll post and hook you up with the 411.

This weekend, I might climb one of these mountains. Then, im getting driven (in a Prius) to their show at the Echoplex. Idk what I'm doing sunday.

We have a new person who's gonna guestwrite the whip all over this blog. Her name is Melissa. Melz, etc. She's awesome and really smart. Hopefully, she'll post soon.

Upcycle, please


Apparently, that numbness you feel between your legs after a fourty mile bike ride through Topanga Canyon and up PCH isn't just the "no pain, no gain" kind of pain. Yeah, that's right. If you wanna give mother nature a helping hand, ride a bike, esp. if youre a bro.
When biking, not only will you cut back on your driving time, you might also be cutting back on your love time, according to the LA Times and like, some scientists. It's really interesting, I think. But maybe a bit sad. I think I need one of these newfangled nose-less seats.
Apparently, going green isn't that hard afterall.
Upcycle, please.


Katie Ford told Hitomi told Me about these homies.

They're hella rad, yeah?

I'm so glad Stl has intelligent, creative people like this. And on Cherokee Street!
I want to work with them. If you're in the lou tonight, you should check out their event. It also looks hella rad.
Upcycle, please.


My favorite Daft song this summer. Not only is it ten minutes long, it's catchy as hell. It get's realllly good like, 5:10 seconds in. The beat is like, part "Jogging" byYelle, part "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. I could do so much hatching to this. Oh, robots!!

Upcycle, please.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


You really need to read this post by Steve Hymon from the Bottleneck Blog. It's mindblowing.

Upcycle, please.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I forgot to post this on monday, but the fam and I attempted to take the Summer Beach Bus this weekend. And we failed. It seems like an awesome idea, doesnt it! Take the bus/bike/drive to one of the SBB stops and just hop on and go to the beach! It's like, 50 cents per ride, which, even for my family, reallyreally beats gas/parking. So we decided to do it.

There are, however, several issues with the bus, specifically with in terms of scheduling. It's okay that there are only like, three buses every day. We dont usually spend more than four hours at the beach, anyway, so it is sort of convenient to have such strict pick up times. But what does bother me is that the SBB, like so much of the Metro system here, only runs Monday-Saturday. I'm sorry, Metro, but that's absolutel bullshit.

Really, you're not going to offer bus service to the beach on sunday? I understand that it's summer, people/kids are on vacation, etc and going to the beach on a tuesday morning is probably a viable option for some people. But to completely suspend service on a sunday-which happens to be the day my family usually dedicates to family outings- is a bit irresponsible and really, just bad business. I feel like most people who beach it, do so on the weekends. And the beaches are always swarming on sundays. Is it really that much more expensive to run three extra buses per week?

This is a problem that Metro absolutely loves getting itself into. That is, they offer crappy service on the weekends/holidays/after 9pm and in doing so, shoot themselves in the feet. I understand that its probably not terribly profitable to run buses at these times, but I feel like part of the problem is that because service isnt as frequent or reliable, PT is much less of an option. It takes infinitely longer to get anywhere on the bus from 9pm friday-7am monday. Maybe if they intentionally offerent more service during these times, they could boost ridership.

upcycle, please.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Here are pictures of m hanging tomatoes!! They’re cuties, huh?

Beans grow right side up on the tomatoes’ topsoil, Tomatoes grow upside down from the buckets, and chiles grow righside up below them. It’s beautiful, I think.

This is a surefire way to double or triple your tomato/jalapeno consumption without worrying about salmonella.

I've also posted a picture of my glorious worm bin over above the blogroll.

Tomorrow, ill snap a picture of the worms themselves.
They're names are Chad1, 2, and 3.

so flexible

Upcycle, please


The following pictures are from the Arleta Garden Club, located under the utilities that run parallel to Caterbury Avenue from roughtly Devonshire Ave up in North Hills to the Tujunga Wash over in Arleta. I like to call it the Canterbury Greenway, but I don’t think that’s the official name. A boy can dream.

The land below the powerlines is owned by the LA Dept. of Water and Power and they let interested people farm on some of it for either a small fee. I think its like, $60 a year (according to my mom). Anyway, it’s site#1 on my list of places to cyclebomb.

It’s entirely run by the community, which is dope. But not many people know about it. Directly over the fence from the farms is something that has the potential to become a bike path.

These are some trees that like to lean with it. (Sometimes, they also rock with it.)

A Pole. I'd like to stick some flowers in it.

This is probably the coolest kick-it spot in the entire Valley.

Peas? Sunflowers? Sunshowers.

Cantebury Elementary School's garden.

A row of corn.
More corn.
Eat your heart out, Mr. Getty.

I like this untamed wildnerness look a lot.

Upcycle, please.


If you’ve received any texts from me over the last few weeks regarding my love affair with the taco man, this post might shed some light on what I’m talking about. They’re on the corner of Woodman and Nordhoff (I usually hit them up on late night walks back from the 233/761) and offer up really good tacos for like, a dollar each. They also offer soft drinks in glass bottles, which I am really partial to. And free condiments (read: like, three different kinds of salsa and a container devoted solely to CILANTRO).

I’m showcasing a taco truck because well, their tacos are really really yumsters. And they’re based out of Arleta, my hood. So they’re local. I might set up an interview with these kids at some point. They aren’t and don’t claim to be sustainable in any way, shape, or form, but theres something about good, inexpensive food that speaks to what we at the Upcycle Network believe in, no?

I think I can forgive the fact that their business model is entirely predicated upon the internal combustion engine and I found a way to get around the Styrofoam (If you order food to go, they wrap your food in aluminum foil without the foam). And don’t get Laura started on their meat-peddling ways, whoa. But whatever, late at night tacos, after a tough day working for The Man, are good for the soul. And THAT’S what I’m after.

Oh, and apparently, they do parties.

Upcycle, please.
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